Kris Nicolaou - Web Strategist - Founder and CEO of Brain Box
Kris Nicolaou

Custom software vs. off the shelf: What's right for your business?

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At its core, the type of software that you and your employees use on a daily basis is supposed to support and empower the way you like to work. A computer program is more than just a piece of software - it's a tool to be used to perform a job more effectively and with a higher degree of quality than ever.

The problem is that when you try to use software for a task other than the one it was expressly designed for, you tend to run into frustrating problems. The job may get done... but it isn't getting done particularly quickly. Or well.

That, in essence, is the problem with off-the-shelf software in most enterprise environments. You may think you're saving a bit of money by forgoing custom software development services in favour of the purchase of something that already exists, but you're also creating a number of core issues that are certainly worth exploring.

The Problem with Ignoring Custom Software Development

The critical data that your business and its employees are creating on a daily basis is the key to everything you've worked so hard to build. That data contains invaluable insights about not only your organization's performance, but the status of its employees, your relationships with your clients and more.

The problem is that this data needs to be able to freely move across your platform, from one piece of software to another and back again. But when you exclusively leverage off-the-shelf software, this is usually difficult - if it's even possible at all.

The issue is that off-the-shelf software doesn't really integrate well with other programs because it was never designed to do that in the first place. Therefore, data silos start to develop and people have difficulty sharing critical information, which makes communication and collaboration an uphill battle.

You may be able to come up with workarounds to get one program to "speak" to another, but this is usually equal parts difficult and time-consuming. Jobs are taking longer than they should to complete, and again - nothing is getting done particularly well.

The most common example of this is trying to export financial data from a program you're using and into a spreadsheet utility like Microsoft Excel. Is it technically possible? Yes... but it's going to take a tremendous amount of time and will likely be more frustrating than you'd like.

Why Custom Software Development Matters

With custom software development, on the other hand, you're talking about something built from the ground up with your business in mind. Integrations aren't a thing you have to worry about because they can be baked into the very DNA of the program.

But more than that, processes and workflows can be designed and optimized to match the way your people already like to work. They don't have to change the way they do things to make up for the limitations of the program because those limitations were weeded out during the development stage.

What you're left with is something that enables all of your employees to work smarter, not harder - which is an exciting position for any business to be in.

If you'd like to find out more information about the major advantages of custom software development, or if you have any additional questions you'd like to see answered in a bit more detail, please don't hesitate to contact Brain Box Labs today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Custom written software is developed and produced to meet your requirements. Whether it be an antivirus, stocktaking software, or software for recording weights. This software is almost boundless. It can stretch as far as your imagination, and your developer's skills allow.

The more complex the software, the more talented your designer must be, resulting in higher costs. But, the simple answer is that custom software is coded, designed, and produced according to your specifications.

A hybrid of software exists, where companies customize off the shelf platforms.

There are many advantages to using custom software. Programmers develop it to meet your needs. Yet, off the shelf software provides different benefits.

Availability is one advantage, with off-the-shelf being easy to buy.

Price is another factor: custom-written software created for you has a specific price. Developers divide the price for off the shelf products between all potential clients.

Updates are another vital aspect. Commercially produced platforms usually offer regular updates, at a low cost. They also check for bugs often. Custom software requires custom updates at a high price.

Custom written software’s main advantage lies in its customizability. While off the shelf software tends toward affordability, custom-written software customizes in suitability. Custom written software is typically written to meet your exact needs, and cover all your bases. Even though the process may be expensive, it’s worth it if you require very detailed or specific software. Additionally, custom-written software can be increased or decreased to meet the size of your team.

The main disadvantage of shelf software is indirectly also its most significant advantage. Because shelf software is designed for and paid for by the masses, it’s usually quite cheap compared to custom software. On the other hand, the generalization is also its most considerable disadvantage because it removes the need for any specific details that you might require.

Many providers of shelf software are beginning to realize this niche and creating hybrid shell software. You get to pay for the base software, and then pay an additional fee for every customization that you’d like to add to the existing software.

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